How To Be Together.
Here at Inkwell we are looking to set up a monthly book club, and here’s a post on a few reasons why. The American writer Jonathan Franzen said of reading that the first lesson it teaches you is, is ‘how to be alone’; to able to withdraw from the world in our frenzied modern age, where the internet invades and operates from nearly every electronic device that surrounds us. We are never far from a notification about an email, a text, or a news story, and you don’t even need access smart-phone to experience this.
Reading is one of the few things that allows us that solace. It is hard to do, and it is hard to find that time, or that room, where you’re free of distractions. Reading is on the decline, we know it is. In fact I would say it’s near impossible now to find the time to sit in a quiet room, when it seems that everybody else is interacting, and living their lives, and we know they’re living their life because they can find the time to update everybody every few hours of their day to tell them how their life is going. Here’s a sample from of some distractions I experienced in the past ten minutes on a certain social networking site.
An advert for National Express with a picture of a kitten (not because I ‘like’ National Express, but because some of my ‘friends’ do). I don’t know what a kitten has to do with coach travel, but who cares, it’s a kitten!
Somebody was tagged with two other people in a photo taken in Cambodia. It’s a nice photo where everybody looks well and healthy, with several comments to scroll through that might tell me more about the story. Why is that person in Cambodia whilst i’m here writing this blog post. Life is so unfair
Person: What a beaut day for Cocktails! (with two likes and one comment). Why is this person drinking cocktails on a monday, whilst i’m reading this 400 page book. Life is so unfair.
Then I checked my twitter feed where there were fourty-two tweets to catch up on. Of course, I didn’t read them all, I skimmed over them which is another reason that we struggle to read.
But this is life, and it’s fascinating. That was roughly 10 minutes of it, and you can see why it’s so difficult to draw yourself away from it. To read a book? But this life is so perfect, everything is brilliant, and everybody is happy leading their lives, and there are sales on clothes everywhere. As I write this post, I frequently abscond to check my phone or the internet.
I jest. Of course there are plenty of reasons to read a book when you set your eyes upon that self-interested stream of people trying to prove to everybody that their life is good, whether it is or not. As long as I give the illusion my life is brilliant everybody will believe me, along with a steady stream of advertisements to suit.
So reading teaches you how to be alone. But does that mean it entails being lonely? Here’s what Mr. Franzen, who is notably a brilliant chronicler of life, both in fiction and non-fiction, also said; “Every writer is first a member of a community of readers, and the deepest purpose of reading and writing fiction is to sustain a sense of connectedness, to resist…loneliness.” That, I guess defines why we want to set up Inkwell Reading Group. Like everything else at Inkwell it’s about bringing people together through creativity, and creativity doesn’t just have to be about putting things on paper. Whenever you read you’re transported into that world that defines itself as ‘fiction’, but this new world gives you an opportunity to look at the non-fictional world that you reside, i’m assuming, most of the time. And what more is there to creativity but to mould your own thoughts?
We’re setting up a monthly book club, to create a community of readers. At Inkwell are not looking to prescribe books every month we think you should read but if somebody says that they want to discuss a certain book for whatever reason, then we would promote that. From Le Guin to Le Carré, from Ballard to Borges.
Books will also be provided via a connection with Leeds library and it will all take place in the comfortable confines of Inkwell. We’re setting up a meet and greet in the next few weeks after the success of our World Book Night event where you can find out more and find out our first book.
And so, I was always wary of using the term escapism to describe reading books, but with the constant news that books are apparently disappearing (so is oil apparently but we keep on using and finding it), it will become an escapist endeavour. But we don’t want to escape: enough of escaping. We want to bring people together to discuss a books, because books are about life, and so we might end up talking about things which are not necessarily about the book, which is good, because whilst everybody else is talking about their lives on Facebook, we can discuss it with people, not from a mobile phone or PC screen, but with each other in a room with nice art and coffee
Because it’s not just discovering and exploring, or escaping the world you’ve chosen to read about, it’s about discovering new things about the real world that we constantly need to keep learning how to live in. And if reading teaches how to be alone, then surely it’s also about how to be together. Who needs teaching how to be alone now?
Come to the meet and greet on Tuesday, 17th June at 10:30 am. No books are required; just bring lots of book-chat. Here we’ll also distribute the first book we’re planning on reading.